When an author and industry expert you hold in high regard says a book is the best one s/he's read in 2008, it's probably a good idea to take notice. So when Garr Reynolds of Presentation Zen fame recommended Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina, I decided that should be something I get sooner rather than later. After reading, I can see why he recommends the book so highly. Medina's 12 "brain rules" are based on solid science, but they're presented in such a way that you can actually apply your new-found knowledge.
Exercise - Rule #1: Exercise boosts brain power.
Survival - Rule #2: The human brain evolved, too.
Wiring - Rule #3: Every brain is wired differently.
Attention - Rule #4: We don't pay attention to boring things.
Short-Term Memory - Rule #5: Repeat to remember.
Long-Term Memory - Rule #6: Remember to repeat.
Sleep - Rule #7: Sleep well, think well.
Stress - Rule #8: Stressed brains don't learn the same way.
Sensory Integration - Rule #9: Stimulate more of the senses.
Vision - Rule #10: Vision trumps all other senses.
Gender - Rule #11: Male and female brains are different.
Exploration - Rule #12: We are powerful and natural explorers.
When Reynolds reviewed the book on his site, he focused on how these rules pertain to the art of making presentations. Attention, as explained by Medina, means that the brain does not multitask (much to your bosses dismay), we notice patterns and abstract meanings better than recording detail, and you have basically 10 minutes before the audience checks out without a new stimulus. Vision, the sensory "trump card", is the dominant sense, our brain controls what we see (and it's not totally correct), the processes to "see" something are very complex, and most importantly, we remember and learn best through pictures and not written/spoken words. That one insight alone should be enough to make you totally rethink the way we attempt to present to people...
Now, even if you're not approaching the book from a presentation angle, the book is still outstanding. Something like memory, an act we take for granted, is a deep mystery that we still don't understand. Medina shows by studies and real-life examples how things *might* work, knowing full well we haven't even begun to understand but a fraction of what goes on there. Sleep, something that boosts brain power, is *not* a time of relaxation for the brain. In fact, it often kicks into overdrive. Why? There are still no definitive answers. But he does go on to prove how *lack* of sleep can utterly render you incapable of rational thought and physical action. When you've worked through all 12 of the brain rules, you'll have a more complete understanding of how you can affect the quality of your brain functioning, all the while being entertained and amazed at what lies between your ears.
Every time I got to the end of a chapter, I started to put the book down. But then I'd think "just one more and then I'll turn out the light." Needless to say, I was at the end before I knew it. Like Garr Reynolds, this is one of the best books I've read this year, and one that I'd recommend to others for a number of reasons and purposes.